Thursday, September 23, 2004

Why the browser should not be part of the OS

From C|Net this morning:

Microsoft this week reiterated that it would keep the new version (more secure - DM) of Microsoft's IE Web browser available only as part of the recently released Windows XP operating system, Service Pack 2. The upgrade to XP from any previous Windows versions is $99 when ordered from Microsoft. Starting from scratch, the OS costs $199.

Microsoft pretty much has its users by the balls if they want to continue using Internet Explorer. It's actually too facile to just say, "Use Mozilla." Even if you run Mozilla -- either the full suite or just Firefox -- on Windows, IE is always present, since it's integrated into the OS. (99%+ of users aren't going to be able to install Win98 Lite.) So, the exploitable code is still there.

Nor is it realistic to say that everyone should upgrade to XP. First, it costs money that many don't have. Many older PCs that run Win 9x or 2K fine don't have enough horsepower to run XP. They may or may not be upgradeable, but if so, that still costs money. Finally, many businesses use applications that will not run properly on XP.

First, Microsoft used its monopoly to get 95%+ of Internet users to run IE, then abandons a huge chunk of them. Nice ethics. This is exactly the kind of conduct which shows why an appplication should not be part of the base OS. It's also a good argument for open source -- if the source was available, it's more than likely that someone would come up with fixes for IE's security flaws, given the size of the installed base.

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